A photo of an open Bible, with a serene sunset backdrop, capturing a highlighted verse on forgiveness, symbolizing the healing power of letting go and forgiving others.

How To Forgive Someone According To The Bible

Forgiveness is never easy, especially when someone has hurt you deeply. You may be wrestling with feelings of anger, betrayal, and resentment. While these emotions are normal, holding on to bitterness can be destructive to your emotional and spiritual well-being.

The Bible has much to say about the importance of forgiveness and provides practical ways to let go of negativity and restore relationships. If you’re wondering how to forgive someone biblically, this comprehensive guide will walk you through the scriptural basis and practical steps.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: the Bible calls us to forgive others just as God has forgiven us through Christ. We forgive by the power of the Holy Spirit, releasing hurt and extending mercy to those who have wronged us.

Key steps include prayerfully examining your heart, releasing anger and desire for revenge, communicating with humility, and restoring the relationship when possible.

Examine Biblical Teachings on Forgiveness

Forgiveness Is a Choice

Forgiveness is not an emotion, but rather a conscious choice and act of the will. Although emotions like anger, sadness or betrayal are natural responses when wronged, the Bible calls believers to choose forgiveness instead of holding on to bitterness (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Forgiveness is empowered by God’s grace, as we remember how much we have been forgiven by Him (Matthew 18:21-35). It’s an act of obedience, as Scripture repeatedly commands it (Colossians 3:13).

Choosing to forgive someone who hurt you deeply is extremely difficult in our own strength. But God promises to provide the grace and power to forgive others, just as He has forgiven us (2 Corinthians 12:9). As we turn to Him, He can change our hearts and free us from bitterness.

Forgive as You Have Been Forgiven

The Bible reminds us that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s standards (Romans 3:23). Yet while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). God took the initiative to forgive us freely, even though we didn’t deserve it.

He expects His followers to forgive others in the same way – freely and fully, without requiring the other person to earn it.

Forgiveness may be one of the most difficult commands in Scripture, but God enables us by His grace and example. As 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

We can draw strength from God’s promise to keep forgiving us when we confess our sins to Him.

Forgiveness Brings Freedom

Unforgiveness acts like a poison inside our hearts, affecting our emotions and relationships. But letting go of bitterness through forgiveness brings tremendous freedom. Forgiveness is as much about helping ourselves as the other person.

Studies show that cultivating a forgiving heart benefits our mental and physical health (source). It reduces anxiety, depression and stress. People who forgive have healthier and more meaningful relationships. Most importantly, forgiveness frees us to move forward in life with joy and peace.

As author Lewis Smedes wrote, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” This liberating power of forgiveness is a key reason why God commands it so strongly throughout the Bible.

Reflect on Your Heart

Ask God to Search Your Heart

When someone has hurt us, it’s natural to harbor resentment and bitterness. However, the Bible calls us to forgive others just as God has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13). An important step is asking God to search our hearts for any hidden bitterness or unresolved anger.

We can pray, “Lord, please reveal any bitterness in my heart toward this person. Help me to see them through your eyes of compassion.” As God brings issues to mind, confess them and ask Him to cleanse your heart of all malice (1 John 1:9).

Releasing resentment frees us to follow Jesus’ command to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Let Go of Bitterness

Bitterness can seem like a protection mechanism – if we hold on to anger, we won’t be hurt again. But in reality, bitterness harms us even more than the original offense. It steals joy, poisons relationships, and hinders our fellowship with God.

God’s Word urges us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31). We release bitterness by making a decision to forgive – even if emotions lag behind.

We can pray, “Lord, by faith I release this bitterness and choose to forgive. Please replace these hurtful emotions with your love and peace.”

Replacing bitter thoughts with thankful ones is also powerful. When resentment surfaces, we can mentally list blessings we’re grateful for – countering bitterness with thanksgiving.

Have Empathy for the Offender

Considering what may have motivated the person who hurt you can develop understanding and compassion. The Bible says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Thinking about what pain or insecurity they may feel can inspire empathy and create space for forgiveness to grow.

We might pray, “Lord, please help me see this situation from their perspective. Soften my heart with your compassion for them.” As we receive God’s mercy, we can extend it to others, releasing both parties from the offense’s grip.

Take Practical Steps

Communicate Your Decision to Forgive

Once you have made the internal decision to forgive someone who has wronged you, it is important to communicate that decision to them (Matthew 18:15). This opens the door to reconciliation and restoration of the relationship. However, it must be done sensibly and with wisdom:

  • Be clear about what you are forgiving them for exactly.
  • Assure them you have let go of bitterness and resentment.
  • Set healthy boundaries if trust needs to be rebuilt.
  • Offer to meet in person if appropriate to demonstrate your sincerity.

According to clinical psychologist Dr. Janis Abrahms Spring, author of How Can I Forgive You? : The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To, openly declaring your forgiveness to the offender helps reinforce it in your own heart and mind (Reference).

Set Boundaries if Needed

Forgiving someone does not necessarily mean the relationship goes back to the way it was before, at least not right away. Trust and intimacy may need to be rebuilt slowly over time if major breaches have occurred (Reference).

As such, setting wise boundaries can be essential to the process of restoring the relationship without leaving yourself vulnerable to further hurts. Some key things to keep in mind:

  • State clearly what behaviors you will no longer tolerate.
  • Agree together on what the new “rules” will be going forward.
  • Calmly enforce the boundaries if violations occur.
  • Gradually expand trust as consistency is demonstrated.

According to marriage counselors Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, authors of the popular book Boundaries, biblical forgiveness does not require anyone to make themselves unsafe or expose themselves recklessly to abuse or manipulation (Reference).

Wise boundaries enable testing and growth of the relationship over time.

Unhealthy Relationship Healthy Relationship
Communication One-sided, dismissive Open, respectful dialogue
Trust Broken, reluctant Built gradually, reliably
Respect Lacking for needs/feelings Honoring of mutual dignity

As seen above, forgiveness sets the stage for positive transformation, but boundaries may be needed to guard progress.

Work Toward Reconciliation

The ultimate goal of extending and receiving forgiveness is full reconciliation of the broken relationship. Scripture teaches forgiveness brings freedom from bitterness (Hebrews 12:15) and opens the door for restored fellowship (Luke 15:11-32).

Working toward genuine reconciliation requires time, transparency and sacrifice from both parties, including (Reference):

  • Honest confession of past wrongs
  • Sincere apology and request for pardon
  • Commitment to make personal changes needed
  • Effort to rebuild trust and intimacy slowly

Data from a 2021 survey on reconciliation showed 79% of respondents said restored relationships were “extremely” or “very” meaningful after forgiveness was chosen over grudges (Reference). Esteemed Christian mediator Ken Sande affirms reconciliation requires courage and wisdom, but brings deep blessings (Reference).


Forgiveness is a journey that takes time, courage, and active cooperation with God’s Spirit. As you pray, study Scripture, release anger, and act in love, you’ll experience the freedom of restored relationships and growth in Christlike character.

Remember that forgiveness is a choice – one that sets you free from bitterness and opens the door to healing and joy. May God bless you as you pursue forgiveness according to His Word.

In summary, the Bible provides a framework for forgiveness based on God’s mercy toward us. We forgive by examining our hearts, releasing negativity, communicating humbly with offenders, and working toward reconciliation. While challenging, choosing forgiveness brings freedom and restoration.

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